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DSU Welcomes Running Mate Rhoden to Cybersecurity Forum

Dakota State University held an “Executive CyberSecurity Roundtable and Policy Discussion” Wednesday in Madison. Somehow they slipped and let Congresswoman Kristi Noem make it a campaign event:

Larry Rhoden (seated left) and Kristi Noem at DSU cybersecurity roundtable, photo from DSU Facebook, 2018.08.08.
Larry Rhoden (seated left) and Kristi Noem at DSU cybersecurity roundtable, photo from DSU Facebook, 2018.08.08.

Hey, what’s Larry Rhoden doing at the head table, looking for an alarm button to press? False-Alarm Larry apparently caused DSU some alarm. Our computer school initially posted this welcome to Rhoden and Noem:

Today we welcome the Honorable Kristi Noem and her running mate Larry Rhoden to campus for an Executive Cybersecurity Roundtable and Policy Discussion. The event is hosted by Dakota State University and Palo Alto Networks. The Round Table includes industry leaders from local, regional and national organizations. The event is being held in The Beacom Institute of Technology [DSU, Facebook, 2018.08.08].

The DSU team got up the next day and edited that welcome:

EDIT: Yesterday, Dakota State University and Palo Alto Networks hosted an Executive Cybersecurity Roundtable and Policy Discussion. Along with industry leaders from local, regional, and national organizations, South Dakota’s congressional delegation was invited to attend, including Senator Thune, Senator Rounds, and Representative Noem. The event was held in The Beacom Institute of Technology on DSU’s campus. This was a campus-wide forum and as are all such forums on campus, was open to the public. Larry Rhoden was not an invited participant, but was in attendance as part of Representative Noem’s team. Mr. Rhoden was not a member of the panel. Media outlets were invited to attend the roundtable and could speak with any of the invited leaders during a scheduled press opportunity. Dakota State, as do all state universities, works collaboratively with all of South Dakota’s elected officials and seeks to have their voices included in campus conversations. Dakota State University does not endorse candidates seeking election [DSU, Facebook, edited 2018.08.09].

Not a member of the panel? He got to sit at the table, closer to the podium than his boss Kristi. He’s looking sure looks like a member of the panel.

And not invited? Then how did he get his own name tag at the table?

Kristi Noem for Governor, Twitter pic, 2018.08.08.
Kristi Noem for Governor, Twitter pic, 2018.08.08.

DSU doesn’t endorse candidates; it just prints them fancy name tags when they show up uninvited.

Now sure, Larry Rhoden is a sitting State Representative, so inviting and welcoming him could make some sense. But commenters on DSU’s Facebook page indicate that State Senator Billie Sutton, Noem’s opponent in the race for Governor, was not invited.

DSU’s excusing edit also misstates Rhoden’s position. Rhoden is not a member of Representative Noem’s team. He does not work for Noem in her capacity as a federal elected official. He is her running mate in her gubernatorial campaign. If Noem was attending the event in her capacity as a member of Congress, then Rhoden had no place at her side at that table any more than Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Michelle Lavallee would have at the table next to State Senator Billie Sutton… if he had been invited to attend.

The Noem/Rhoden campaign appearance isn’t the first time this year DSU has had to deny any collusion with Republican campaigners. Their inclusion of running-mate Rhoden at a cybersecurity policy discussion with no Democrats of equivalent political rank signals that the school may be trapped in the Janklovian thinking to which it owes its continued existence: pander to the Republican powers that be and pray they keep us alive.

Update 09:06 CDT: The Noem campaign promoted the DSU event with this e-mail Tuesday:

From: Kristi For Governor []
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2018 11:08 AM
To: Kristi For Governor Press
Subject: ADVISORY: Noem in Madison, Sioux Falls Wednesday


Noem in Madison, Sioux Falls Wednesday

Sioux Falls, S.D. – Kristi Noem will participate in a cybersecurity roundtable in Madison on Wednesday, August 8, before attending the Ag Appreciation Lunch at the Sioux Empire Fair. If you are press planning to cover either event, please email

WHAT: Noem to Participate in Cybersecurity Roundtable
WHEN: Wednesday, August 8 – 9:30AM (CT)
WHERE: Beacom Institute of Technology, Dakota State University

WHAT: Noem to Attend Ag Appreciation Lunch
WHEN: Wednesday, August 8 – 12:00PM (CT)
WHERE: Sioux Empire Fairgrounds (100 Lyon Blvd, Sioux Falls)

Paid for by Kristi for Governor [Noem campaign, press release, 2018.08.07].

Note that his e-mail came from the campaign, not from Noem’s Congressional office. The e-mail as delivered to me included the “Paid for by” campaign finance disclaimer. The Noem/Rhoden team appears to have viewed their appearance at DSU Wednesday as a campaign event, not a Congressional activity.

Update 10:44 CDT: Demonstrating further misstatement by DSU, Madison Daily Leader reporter Mary Gales Askren says on Facebook that the media was excluded from most of this “public” roundtable but could talk to Noem afterward.

Update 11:23 CDT: Palo Alto Networks, DSU’s partner in hosting this roundtable, spent $150K in 2015, $260K in 2016, and $280K in 2017 lobbying Rep. Noem and her colleagues on matters of business interest. From January through June of this year, Palo Alto Networks reports spending $90K on lobbying.


  1. mike from iowa 2018-08-12 09:24

    Rhoden looks like he is sawing logs.

  2. 96Tears 2018-08-12 10:03

    DSU let this become a Noem/Rhoden campaign event, and they did so in writing. And the photo doesn’t lie. Shameful.

    If DSU had any intention of keeping this nonpartisan, they would have seated Rhoden in the audience, not on the panel in the prime position.

    I don’t expect the bored of regents to do anything about it since they’ve shown their stripes clearly during and since the EB-5 racketeering scam. This is how the seeds of corrupt administrations get planted in South Dakota. One hand washing the other in the institutions of our government. I predict Noem will preside over the most corrupt administration in state history.

  3. Kal Lis 2018-08-12 10:12

    This partisanship, whether it constitutes an endorsement or not, vexes on several levels.

    First, cybersecurity is a central issue for nearly everything in the nation. The electric grid, the election system, and smaller things that South Dakota’s K-12 email system all come to mind. Elected officials of both parties should have access to the latest information. If DSU wants to be known as the state’s premier cybersecurity school, then it should serve the state not just one political party.

    Second, while many thought the digital revolution would lead to increased democratization, AI and other tech has become a tool used to repress or oppress citizens. The appearance of partisanship here indicates DSU is tone deaf on that issue.

    Third, South Dakota’s print and broadcast media already function as an incumbent and career politician job insurance agency. The idea that a state funded school wouldn’t put leaders from both major parties at a head table indicates that state institutions have become just as partisan as those media outlets. Further, in an election year, candidates for statewide office should be given equal time at any nonpartisan event.

  4. Rorschach 2018-08-12 10:21

    They also gave the uninvited Rhoden a printed name badge to wear around his neck and a DSU coffee mug in front of him. I can’t tell if they gave him a pillow, but it doesn’t look like it.

  5. David Newquist 2018-08-12 12:08

    Partisan episodes have plagued the system, largely because the regents are shamelessly partisan appointments. NSU suffered from a series of presidents who would not embarrass the regents by being competent academics. One of them was removed as head of the Montana higher education system by a politician who was very disgruntled by him. The first thing he did at Northern was lose accreditation for the education department, which was Northern’s flagship program. But his signal political faux pas was to sponsor an on-campus fundraiser for Sen. Tim Johnson. The man, who was an ordained Episcopal minister, suddenly resigned to take a Parish in Missouri. He was soon defrocked and kicked out of the church by the bishop for giving a parishioner carnal communion. So, he returned to being a college president at some hapless little campus in Illinois.

    The administration at DSU probably feels beholden to GOP politicians because Janklow changed it into the cyber place. They might be grooming Rhoden for its presidency. Have you noted the recent line of succession for USD?

  6. Loren 2018-08-12 12:28

    How do you suppose Republicans would do in “regular” elections, you know, elections without gerrymandering, early poll closures, elimination of polling places, ID restrictions, registration list purges, free publicity (like cyber “forums”, Faux News, Sean and the morning friends…), not to mention unlimited money from corporations-who-are-people-too? Food for thought.

  7. Charlie Richardson 2018-08-12 12:47

    This whole sham smacks of partisan politics. The instant Rhoden was seated at the table next to Noem, it became a campaign event. She wasn’t there in the capacity of a US congressional representative, but as a gubernatorial candidate. Period. To top it off, DSU’s Marketing and Public Affairs director hurriedly edited the press release to cover her and the university’s backsides so it didn’t appear to be just another campaign stop for candidates Noem and Rhoden.

  8. Dave 2018-08-12 15:43

    Man, this stinks.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-08-12 23:02

    Rhoden as president of a university? He hardly seems the type.

  10. David Newquist 2018-08-13 00:47

    I was being facetious, but given some system presidents, not too.

  11. Bucko Bear 2018-08-13 03:46

    Why is a university supporting republicans ? It’s not like they (R’s) tolerate education or intelligence.

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